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Talking Comics with Tim | Nick Dragotta on ‘East of West’

Panels from "East of West" #4

Panels from “East of West” #4

There are certain artists who prove that their work only gets better with each new project and new issue. Such is the case with Nick Dragotta on East of West, his new creator-owned ongoing series with Jonathan Hickman.

I relish any opportunity to interview Dragotta, particularly in the same week that East of West 5#. His ability to lay out some spectacular action scenes continues to be a given in this Image Comics series, but I have also grown to appreciate his ability to develop distinctive architecture as well as engaging, yet more sedate, scenes.

In addition to discussing East of West, Dragotta also brought me up to date on Howtoons, which we talked about in our first interview in 2011. As the father of a kid who loves do-it-yourself activities, I appreciate the involvement of the artist and his wife Ingrid in a project that fosters fun, educational activities for children. To learn he has gotten creator favorites of mine, such as Fred Van Lente (no stranger to educational entertainment), Jeff Parker and Sandy Jarrell involved is just icing on the DIY cake.

Back to East of West, the artist and I also got a chance to (hopefully) satiate Comics Should Be Good’s Greg Burgas’ curiosity regarding the East of West creative process that he broached in a recent essay on reviewing the art in comics. In addition, Dragotta was kind enough to share an unlettered page from East of West #5 as well as unlettered pages from issues 2 and 4. With the first trade (collecting issues 1-5) set for release on Sept. 11, we also discuss its potential impact on audience growth. Full candor: Dragotta blindsided me with his Rob Liefeld fan club confession. Seriously, though, it is refreshing to see a talent such as Dragotta reveling in the opportunity to do creator-owned work.

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Report Card | From ‘Buck Rogers’ to ‘The Bunker’ to ‘X-Factor’

reportcard-tease-aug1113

Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.

So find out what we thought about The Bunker, Detective Comics, X-Factor and more.

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Appeals court upholds Marvel victory in Kirby copyright feud

kirby marvel charactersThe Second Circuit Court of Appeals handed Marvel a significant victory this morning, upholding a 2011 ruling that Jack Kirby’s contributions to the publisher in the 1960s were work for hire, and therefore not subject to copyright reclamation by the artist’s heirs.

However, as Tom Spurgeon first reported, the appellate court vacated the New York district judge’s summary ruling against two of Kirby’s children, California residents Lisa and Neal, on jurisdictional grounds; the judgment against Susan and Barbara stands.

Secondarily, the Second Circuit upheld the lower court’s exclusion of expert testimony offered by John Morrow and Mark Evanier on behalf of the Kirby heirs, agreeing that “their reports are by and large undergirded by hearsay statements, made by freelance artists in both formal and informal settings, concerning Marvel’s general practices towards its artists during the relevant time period.”

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Comics A.M. | Near-mint ‘X-Men’ #1 sells for record $250,000

The X-Men #1

The X-Men #1

Comics | A CGC-certified 9.6 copy of 1963′s The X-Men #1, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, fetched a private-sale record of $250,000 in a deal brokered by Pedigree Comics. That same comic, said to be one of just two certified near-mint copies in existence, went for a then-record $200,000 in March 2011; a 9.8 copy sold at auction in July 2012 for $492,938. The all-time record remains the $2.6 million paid in a 2011 auction for a near-mint copy of Action Comics #1. [CGC Comics]

Comics | Joe McCulloch puts together a nice guide to the self-published comics of Steve Ditko. [Comics Alliance]

Comics | If you want to read Franco-Belgian comics but don’t know where to start, Jared Gardner has you covered, with a brief introduction and some recommended works that have been translated into English. [Public Books]

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Preview | ‘The Simon & Kirby Library: Science Fiction’

blue-bolt-cropped

Arriving in bookstores today is The Simon & Kirby Library: Science Fiction, a 320-page collection from Titan Books that spans more than 20 years, beginning with the very first collaboration between Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

Before they created Captain America, the legendary duo worked together on Simon’s Blue Bolt, a character whose origin, in the words of Don Markstein, “is even more excruciating than that of most superheroes”: College football star Fred Parrish is struck by lightning during practice, and then stumbles to an airplane to fly for help — only to be struck again by lightning. The plane crashes, depositing Parrish underground, conveniently where a scientist named Bertoff has established a laboratory. The danger-prone athlete is revived and treated with radium, which grants him with lightning powers. Oh, and he also gets a lightning gun. Hey, it was the 1940s.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Don’t blink! Sizing up the short runs

Spooky!

Spooky!

With the end of Geoff Johns’ tenure on Green Lantern and Grant Morrison’s upcoming farewell to Batman, a fan’s thoughts turn naturally to other extended runs. Marv Wolfman wrote almost every issue of New (Teen) Titans from the title’s 1980 preview through its final issue in 1995. Cary Bates wrote The Flash fairly steadily from May 1971′s Issue 206 through October 1985′s first farewell to Barry Allen (Issue 350). Gerry Conway was Justice League of America’s regular writer for over seven years, taking only a few breaks from February 1978′s Issue 151 through October 1986′s Issue 255.

However, in these days of shorter stays, I wanted to examine some of the runs that, despite their abbreviated nature, left lasting impressions. At first this might sound rather simple. After all, there are plenty of influential miniseries-within-series, like “Batman: Year One” or “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,” where a special creative team comes in to tell a particular story. Instead, sometimes a series’ regular creative team will burn brightly, but just too quickly, leaving behind a longing for what might have been.

A good example of this is found in Detective Comics #469-76, written by Steve Englehart, penciled by Marshall Rogers and inked by Terry Austin (after Walt Simonson penciled and Al Milgrom inked issues 469-70). Reprinted in the out-of-print Batman: Strange Apparitions paperback, and more recently (sans Simonson/Milgrom) in the hardcover Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers, these issues introduced Silver St. Cloud, Rupert Thorne, Dr. Phosphorus and the “Laughing Fish,” featured classic interpretations of Hugo Strange, the Penguin and the Joker, and revamped Deadshot into the high-tech assassin he remains today. Tying all these threads together is Bruce Wayne’s romance with Silver, which for my money is the Bat-books’ version of Casablanca. It’s the kind of much-discussed run that seems like it should have been longer. Indeed, I suspect it’s one of the shorter runs in CSBG’s Top 100 list.
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Kickstarter launches for Jack Kirby book, by his grandson

kirby kickstarter

Less than 24 hours after its launch, a Kickstarter campaign by Jeremy Kirby to fund a coffee table book devoted to his legendary grandfather Jack Kirby has already exceeded its $7,500 goal.

Titled The Life and Times of Jack Kirby, the hardcover will feature hundreds of personal photographs and artwork, and a never-before-seen play written by Jack Kirby called Frog Prince.

“Years ago (1997 to be exact) I wrote a screenplay and shared it with my grandmother,” Jeremy writes. “She did what every grandmother would do after reading her grandson’s story and told me how wonderful it was. But then she stopped for a moment as if pausing to think. She had me wait where I was and I saw her go into her closet. She reached into a box that was on a shelf and pulled out a dusty old folder. She handed it to me and said ‘your grandfather would have wanted you to have this.’ It was a play that he had written.  I have since showed the play to friends of the family and not one had ever heard of its existence.”

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What Are You Reading? with Allison Baker

nursenursecover-tease

Happy Mother’s Day and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics, books and what have you we’ve been checking out lately. Joining us today is Allison Baker, co-publisher of Bandette, Edison Rex and all the other Monkeybrain Comics you can find on comiXology.

To see what Allison and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Comics A.M. | Singapore cartoonist arrested; crowdfunding scam

Leslie Chew cartoon

Leslie Chew cartoon

Legal | Singapore cartoonist Leslie Chew was arrested last week on charges of sedition, held over the weekend, and released on S$10,000 bail. His cellphone and computer were also confiscated. The charges stem from two cartoons on Chew’s Demon-cratic Singapore Facebook page. [Yahoo! News Singapore]

Crowdfunding | Chris Sims tells the truly bizarre tale of a crowdfunding scam: Someone copied Ken Lowery and Robert Wilson IV’s Kickstarter campaign for Like a Virus, including the video, and made it into an IndieGoGo campaign, presumably planning to pocket the money and run. [Comics Alliance]

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What Are You Reading? with James Hornsby

rocket-raccoon-and-groot-tease

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look into the reading habits of the Robot 6 gang. Today’s special guest is James Hornsby, the cartoonist behind Botched Spot and Over Like Olav.

To see what James and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below …

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Six by 6 | The six best superhero costume redesigns of all time

BOX

One of the most symbolic moments of Superman is when he changes from his guise as Clark Kent to become the Man of Steel. The idea that the wearing of a costume imbues some kind of unquantifiable power is a key part of what makes superhero comics work; otherwise, they’d just be adventurers and action heroes.

But speaking of change, changes in superhero costumes have become as much a part of the comics as the heroes themselves. From Superman’s early days with his golden emblem to the modern “S” today and on through to other years (including Batman’s countless wardrobe changes), the design of a superhero isn’t static and a redesign has proved, many times, to be just the thing to make a character work.

In this week’s “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six of the most dynamic and powerful redesigns in superhero comics. Redesigns that saved a character from obscurity, put them in a new light or simply simplified what was already there.

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Dave Zissou animates Paul Pope’s Orion, adds Kirby tribute

Orion gif header

We do like a good comic-related GIF at Robot 6 (hence our frequent displays of love for Kerry Callen, or for the hypnotic delight of Rob Brindle’s Batman). Now here’s one created by cartoonist Dave Zissou after his experiments coloring Paul Pope’s gray-washed sketches of Jack Kirby’s Orion of the New Gods.

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Meet your 2013 Guardians of the Galaxy

guardiansAs unlikely as it may seem, the Guardians of the Galaxy are poised to be the next Marvel team to get a tent-pole movie, following The Avengers (me, I was hoping for a Champions movie, as all but Hercules have been previously introduced in movies*).

The publisher has turned to Avengers-rehabilitation expert Brian Michael Bendis to write a new Guardians of the Galaxy series, and after teasing them in the first arc of Avengers Assemble, the comic featuring the cast from the Avengers movie, the writer is all set to launch a new Guardians monthly, penciled by Civil War artist Steve McNiven.

The title kicked off Wednesday with its first issue, Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 (market research apparently revealed that comics buyers are more attracted to decimal points than either the number 1 or even 0), and it isn’t a bad read at all.

It’s the origin of Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, and while the story is essentially one character telling another his history, Bendis, McNiven & Co. depict it as a regular comic, rather than a long, dull conversation, as Bendis is often in the habit of doing. The last two pages reveal the cast.

And who, exactly, is this cast, and where did they come from? Based on the sales of the previous volume of Guardians of the Galaxy vs. sales of your average Bendis or McNiven comic, I imagine a lot of folks will be reading the new series without knowing much of that. And, as always, I think it’s worth keeping in mind who created these characters and how long ago (none of them are any newer than 1976, if you’re wondering).

So let’s take a look at your new Guardians of the Galaxy, shall we?

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Comics A.M. | Tom Tomorrow wins Herblock Prize

This Modern World

This Modern World

Awards | Dan Perkins, better known to his readers as Tom Tomorrow, is the winner of this year’s Herblock Prize for excellence in editorial cartooning. Panelist Matt Bors cited his “consistently hilarious takedowns of women-bashers, gun culture and the president’s abuse of executive power.” The finalist was Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman. The award includes cash prizes of $15,000 (after taxes!) for the winner and $5,000 for the finalist. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Publishing | Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson explains how the company develops licensed properties, specifically “expanded universes” that build on the world of a movie or video game: “So we came up with the idea that we could approach these licensed properties as sequels, particularly in the early days when we focused primarily on film. We’d sit down like fanboys and say ‘Okay, that was great, what can we do next?’” [Forbes]

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This week it’s a choice between navy beans and Nova

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Nova #1

Nova #1

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d buy the leading contender for best ongoing series this year, Saga #10 (Image, $2.99). I loved the last issue focusing on the Will, but I’m excited at the prospect this one teases of Izabel returning – although in a red-tinged, seemingly evil demeanor. After that I’d get another creator-owned gem with Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Beetle #2 (Dark Horse, $3.99). I love the latitude Dark Horse is giving Francavilla in the design packaging here – that cover is something special — and luckily, the insides have the promise of being even better given what happened last issue. Third and last in my $15 haul this week would be Dark Horse Presents #21 (Dark Horse, $7.99). Criminally underrated and consciously mind-blowing, this issue promises three new serials debuting plus a collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Paul Chadwick about alien saucers. Why isn’t this a top-selling book?

If I had $30, I’d make it a Dark Horse trifecta with Conan the Barbarian #13 (Dark Horse, $3.50). How does Brian Wood do it, finding such great artists that no one else knows about like Mirko Colak? This time, Conan tries to conquer the desert. Then I’d do a Marvel trifecta: Avengers #6 (Marvel, $3.99), Nova #1 (Marvel, $3.99) and Thor: God of Thunder #5 (Marvel, $3.99). Avengers has seemingly the origin of my formerly most favorite D-list hero in the Marvel Universe, Captain Universe – until she upgraded to the A-list as an Avenger. Then Nova has a spirited, seemingly kid-friendly romp by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. Then Thor … Thor. This thoroughly dark and mythic story has made Jason Aaron’s beard even more ominous than before.

If I could splurge, I’d get Alter-Ego #115 (TwoMorrows, $8.95). Normally a magazine about comics, in this issue they collect some lost gems – namely the stereoscopic comics (3-D!) – of the 1950s. 3-D glasses included, this issue contains work by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Curt Swan (!!), George Tuska and more. Truly a highlight of the week.

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